By many accounts, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall has represented Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, Castleberry Hill, and other surrounding neighborhoods rather well since taking office in 2005. But Jon Jones, his latest challenger, thinks that District 2 could adopt an even better approach this November: direct democracy.
"To be perfectly honest, I credit [Hall] with great work," he says. "If this was a world where I couldn't make decisions for myself, Kwanza Hall would be a perfectly acceptable person to make all my decisions for me."
The 26-year-old pricing analyst, who first moved to Atlanta in 2010, says he first became fascinated with direct democracy - the concept that people vote on every policy decision, not just for elected officials - when he studied public policy at UCLA. He says the idea of individuals governing themselves instead of electing leaders just made sense.
"How could this be applied to a real government?" he says. "Technology would have to be a crucial part of that. Fundamental to a direct democracy is getting everyone to put their ideas [together] and vote on what they want to see happen."
Last July, Jones started laying the groundwork for his campaign against Hall. The concept prompted Jones to develop the Atlanta Direct Democracy Interface, a website that he says combines elements of Wikipedia and Reddit. If elected, he says, constituents would use the platform to vote on city proposals as well as submit their own ideas.
"[It's a] constantly changing collection of community ideas... a living, breathing illustration of the people's voice," says Jones.
The approach, he says, would allow for city government to become more transparent, boost voter participation, and even curb lobbyist influence. He thinks citizens have "reached a boiling point" with how elected officials make decisions.
While Jones has his own opinions about District 2, he says they're a moot point. He doesn't have an official platform because he sees himself as a delegate for the people. The self-described "staunch fiscal conservative" would even make it a point to provide comprehensive reports outlining the impacts of each decision.
"My message is that my own ideas should never circumvent those of the people who live in my district, " says Jones. "I have no formal agenda that would supersede that. I would vote in the same manner that my constituents would vote."
Jones doesn't specifically disagree with Hall's record as a city councilman, but thinks that direct democracy can outperform even the best candidates. By allowing tens of thousands to participate in the decision-making process, he ultimately thinks District 2 would see greater change take place. "Kwanza Hall has ideas," he says. "But there's a limit to what one man can come up with."
According to his March campaign finance disclosures, Jones has no cash on hand. Meanwhile, Hall raised $170,156.78 during the same period and has $135,144.85 on hand.
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